Boycie is still raising smiles

John Challis
John Challis

Actor John Challis, 70, is best known for his role as Boycie in Only Fools And Horses. He talks about his new autobiography and the highs and lows of his career

Tell us about your new book, Boycie & Beyond. Presumably it covers the rise and rise of Only Fools And Horses?

It does, yes. The first one (Being Boycie) finished in 1985, and I guess that was when it started to take off a bit; when everybody realised we might be on to something, and thereafter it sort of grew and grew. There’s a lot written about favourite episodes, funny things that happened and so on, and also me getting married again for the third time, and that ending in disaster. I like to treat it in a humorous way, but it is a bit dark, you know; the ongoing relationship with my father which never really got resolved. I’ve read it. I think it’s pretty good!

It must be cathartic getting it down on paper?

Well, it is. Some of it is quite painful. I mention the break up of my third marriage, and at the time I wasn’t feeling very good about myself, thinking it’s probably all my fault; my parents died within two years of each other, and it all happened in that two or three years. Then I entered a sort of rebound relationship, which was very exciting but pretty destructive really. By the time that was over, I was feeling pretty sordid, but luckily I met (current wife) Carol and everything sorted itself out.

Was it fun making Only Fools spin-off, The Green Green Grass?

That’s one of the luckiest things that ever happened. As we moved down here to Herefordshire from London in 1998 and it spawned this idea for a spin-off. We had four or five years of great fun. It involved a lot of the whole community. And of course as the character became more well known, you get into extraordinary places.

The loss of writer John Sullivan must have been a sad time?

Yes, it was a bit of a dark period. He died suddenly and there we all are standing around at his funeral wondering what to say to each other, and you suddenly realise that for 30 years of your life you’ve been saying those words.

Do you ever tire of people doing Boycie impressions?

It depends on the context. Sometimes you think, ‘Oh, give it a rest!’ But mostly people smile, and you think, ‘I should be so lucky to have created something that makes people smile’.

What are your feelings about the current Only Fools repeats?

It just doesn’t seem to age. That’s the extraordinary thing about it.